How to deal with seeing extreme poverty + suffering

Travel Forums General Talk How to deal with seeing extreme poverty + suffering

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1. Posted by JetlagWarriors (Full Member 42 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Been travelling for about 3.5 months now. Yesterday had an experience, that was really the straw that broke the camels back. You can check my blog for the story, although it's long and anecdotal really.

I'm looking for some advice on how to deal with seeing extreme poverty and suffering. I'm sure some of you have seen things that really rocked you. Life is certainly unfair and I am feeling like there is so much un-earned luxury in my life.

I'm hoping there is some thoughts or experiences you guys can share that can help me. I think there will be.


2. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 626 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Many travelers arrange to volunteer through some sort of NGO, either before they set out or during their trip.

Perhaps that is one way for you to deal with the crushing poverty you experience. That may just be enough to make a small difference to someone, which may be just what you need to do at this stage.

[ Edit: Edited on 27-Mar-2019, at 00:40 by road to roam ]

3. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2092 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

It's part of culture shock I'm afraid. Can you give yourself a "holiday" from the rough travelling? Have a few days lying by a pool reading?

4. Posted by Keep Smiling (Respected Member 26 posts) 1y 1 Star this if you like it!

Steve and Ivana, you're too young to carry the woes of India on your shoulders! The tiny population of Canada and the massive population of India are poles apart - as, inevitably, are the standards of health, wealth and hygiene. They're facts and you alone won't ever been able to change them.

As you observe in your blog, you "don't have enough money to help the entire world". You do, however, care enough to donate a few Rupees to someone who's clearly in need. Most Indians would actually look the other way! You have, at least, helped one person to survive another day. Be proud of that.

Many years ago, I was able to provide a small amount of money to help a Rajasthani boy with his education. He has since gone on to become a government officer and, through his friendship, I have gained insights to everyday life in India that I would not otherwise have witnessed.

I am a great believer in education helping young people to escape the poverty into which they were born, so I have also sponsored the work of a tiny school for children of a musicians' colony in Jaisalmer. It has been my way of showing that I care - and the smiles on the faces of those children during my visits to them over the past few years has been reward enough.

5. Posted by Stefmuts (Respected Member 184 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

It's just a fact and not travelling will not solve it, better tell about it and make your non traveller friends aware of whats going on in the rest of the world. Your option to give money to a beggar is really not the best way to go, I would have given him something to eat or drink instead, but I can understand why you did. I kinda buy off my guilt by giving donations to the red cross and things like that and I support a charity in Peru which arranges free school meals in the Cusco area
For me the best way to deal with it is to make others aware, I sometimes get the question 'why did you take a picture of that?' and I reply "Because it was like that' lots of people just don't know and educating them feels good
I hope it won't ruin the fun of travelling for you!
O, and I don't think your a coward so don't call yourself that!

6. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 1037 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Whilst it is a terrible thing to see (especially close-up), the poverty in India is reducing faster than it's ever done before.
Volunteering or direct charity donations are about the only thing you can do about it.
Giving money to charities via the 'chuggers' (on street charity muggers) results in only a small portion of any donation reaching the target.
However the much needed businesses required to help these people to a non-poverty level, keep being restricted by western political policies. 'Green' emissions requirements at levels which require uneconomical investments result in the businesses not starting and poverty continuing.
A sensible 'global' understanding of how to balance 'green issues' and 'economic issues' so they can work together seems to completely miss most western politicians.

7. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1325 posts) 1y 1 Star this if you like it!

This is a tough one, but you can't beat yourself up for having had the good fortune to have been born into a part of the world where such suffering is less common. Others have already mentioned ways in which you can provide assistance to people living in vary different circumstances. My husband and I have sponsored a series of children through World Vision (other similar charities are available) in countries such as India and Bolivia - you might like to look into that?

When I travel I find I have to find a way to accept that in many countries I will see people living in a way that I find hard to take. I think you have to be honest with yourself that it's a challenging but inevitable aspect of visiting these countries, be always thankful for the privileges you enjoy (including the ability to travel and see the world) and find the way to help that best suits you, whether it's volunteering, supporting charity work or something else. The other important thing to remember is that these are people. I know that sounds obvious but it's too easy to see them as part of the backdrop to your own adventure, or to forget that you quite likely have more in common with them than you have differences.

8. Posted by Skandinavisk (Full Member 40 posts) 1y 2 Star this if you like it!

When traveling you are bound to see poverty, sickness and cruelty. It's sad, but true, and we will have to deal with it. You can, like others have suggested, do voluntary work, donate (things or money) to organizations, or sponsor people directly. You also have the option to do nothing, allthough I think you would be less humane.

Not traveling, is really no cure, since that will only make you more mentally blind.

Nomatter what you do you need to remember this:
1 Develop a soldiers mindset: See it, and accept it. It's harsh, but mentally sound.
2 You cannot help everyone, and trying to do so will only burn you out.
3 Deside who you help, and stick to it.
4 The poor are not in need of your sympathy, but they do require your respect. I use to view them as survivors rather than victims.
5 Tell others about it. Most people will not do anything, but some simply doesn't know how things are.
6 Remember that not all need a western lifestyle, and are perfectly happend without even knowing that fact.

Post 9 was removed by a moderator
10. Posted by Bennytheball (Budding Member 70 posts) 1y 2 Star this if you like it!

The worst result of poverty I witnessed was in Calcutta, India, where impoverished people afflicted by some terminal disease or malnutrition would wrap themselves in a linen sheet, lie down in the gutter and try to sleep in the hope that they would never wake up again, they knew that the refuse truck would be along to scoop them up and take them to the burning funeral ghats. In a situation like this I realised that the problem of extreme third world poverty was beyond solving by throwing a few rupee coins at the street beggars, it's something corrupt politicians have to sort out, but some alms might help those living in deprivation survive another day.